Hi. so Tuesday night i had a delightful dinner with two young lesbians. They served me ‘lentils al dente‘ with cauliflower and spuds in a curry sauce. it was a sort of dahl, I guess. and best of all, we talked politics for hours…
these two are ardent feminists, righteous dykes–and they’re lonesome for radical feminists. Neither of them had ever been to a Take Back the Night March, or a woman-only demo or political action.
I am old enough to be their mother. good lord.I REALLY fucking wish i hadn’t spent most of my twenties and my thirties gettin’ hammered. That was stupid. (grinds teeth) Now, you know, I look around at young women, and they’re fucking flailing, and I blame myself. Not just me, of course–I was flailing, too, when I was young, but I sure didn’t take some opportunities that I could have done.
now we’re sinking.
Ah, dear… then is then. what’s done is done. i learned something from all that. Mostly that ya gotta fuckin’ PAY ATTENTION. NOW. I shoulda paid attention, THEN, too, but I was busy. Busy partying, that’s true…but not at first, now that I think of it…You know, the couple of years that I was really starting to figure out about this feminist stuff, and starting to articulate arguments for the necessity of joining the women’s liberation movement, I was NOT drinking. I was clean and sober between the time I was 19 and 22. For most of that time, my busy-ness was not of the partying like a crazed lemming-like freak, no.
I was learning– first kind of slow and cautious, ’cause I thought i was gonna go from University back to the small Prairie city where I was raised to get married and teach and have babies of my own. But i was dipping my toes in, how could I not? Feminism was all around. Women were speaking and shouting and agitating like crazy– I teased my friends about being ‘socialist feminist dykes’–as if it was a cartoon kind of funny thing.
but then i started soaking it all in, reading whatever I could get my hands on, talking to my friends and to my teachers and to Marxists and Socialists and Liberation Theologists and marching in peace marches and listening, too. Listening to older feminist women, to left-wing men–listening to music, too! I heard Odetta sing “Amazing Grace” at the end of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and I wept. We drove around Lethbridge with the windows open and sang “here come the leaping lesbians” with Meg Christian on the tape. We argued about anarchism versus communism and we insisted that feminism be taken seriously as feminists in that argument. We had so much fun, too, i tell ya…August 23, 1985, for example, was the founding meeting of the Lesbian Separatist Pyjama Party … we wrote a womanifesto and then we called the local radio station at midnight and asked the dj to play The Parachute Club’s “Rise Up!”, and danced around our living room in celebration. The women’s movement was strong when i was coming out.
I never even considered that one could not be a feminist when one was a lesbian, they totally went together for me. And ya, ya, i also knew lots of heterosexual women who were feminists, and lots of lesbians who weren’t particularly active in feminism,but they weren’t hostile to it, not like so many women are now–queer women in particular.
Got a bit scared after graduating from University, it was during a time when working-class kids could afford to go to school, but i still didn’t know what to do with my new dykey self. had to grow up. didn’t want to. started drinking again. not so bad at first. but enough, enough that my attention wandered from the Glorious Revolution to who was gonna get the next round.
Dammit, I wasn’t paying attention, and suddenly Olivia Records went from being a gang of feminists that made room for LESBIAN music (a lot of it bad, yes, that’s true, but still–all women, and lots of space for each other to try it all out and make mistakes and grow and fucking learn and change some shit) to a CAPITALIST racket flogging cruises for “leave it to beaver (heheh)” ‘straight’ dykes. give me strength.
We used to have feminist bookstores, The Women’s Bookstore, (run by a collective); Press Gang Publishing House; Octopus East (not only feminist, but feminist books, lots of ’em); Women in Print; The Book Mantle…and books by feminists and lesbians–Sarah Lucia Hoagland, Paula Gunn Allen, Julia Penelope, Mary Daly, Christos, Jane Rule, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Germaine Greer, Valerie Solanis, Kate Millet, Robin Morgan…and books about organizing for feminists–and organizing for mixed groups that incorporated feminist tactics.
but slowly, all these bookstores closed. The books went out of print. The groups fell prey to government funding or in-fighting, or just fatigue.
I wasn’t paying attention, and “lesbian” went from being a political sub-category of the political category “woman” to something that is only about sex. oh, and smashing the gender-binaries, and subverting the dominant hegemonic feminism (fer fuck sakes–i can’t but descend into argument ad feminem when i hear shit like this). we went from questioning the institutions women were forced to enter–marriage, motherhood, madonna or whore–to falling all over ourselves to fight for the ‘right’ to get married and have babies. Christ in a coffeepot, can we at least agree to move forward?
It’s become all about ‘choice’. Individual, unexamined, lockstep choice.
when i decided I was gonna be a lesbian, i made that decision in the context of a vibrant and active women’s liberation movement. a movement I watched disintegrate before my eyes. And now, now young women who don’t want to be shit on by the patriarchy are lead to believe that the answer is not to organize with other women and fight back–but to fucking take testosterone and get their tits hacked off and ‘disappear’ their womanhood. It’s the same kind of fear, I’m sure of it, and the same kind of response to fear that lead me to the bottle. I had feminists, but something was missing, even at that. I caved into my training, in a way. and so are they. and it’s called ‘choice’, but the choice to become a part of a big raucous movement of women, an uprising for a common cause of our liberation has been de-clawed, de-veined, de-boned and processed into this weird liberal pate’ called choice–it’s nothing, it’s viscous like oil, this choice….the young women now, they are drowning in ‘choice’–the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea–between this ‘fluid identity’ and that one–so much fluid and no spine at all. bah. i don’t get it. but i have to, i have to figure it out, because these young women, I need them, and they are starving for feminism. we all are.
ach. I gotta go. i have barely begun to explore this thing that has happened, and i’m not makin’ sense yet, exactly–anyhow. if you’re out there, and you’re reading this, and you’re hungry, too, let me know. maybe together we can figure out what happened, and we can rebuild this movement. I know we still have a movement, i know we do, because these young women who nourished me this week, they want to be part of it, and I still do, and we are not the only ones. we need each other.